Upgrade to ChromeUpgrade to FirefoxUpgrade to Internet ExplorerUpgrade to Safari

tips & insights

Insider knowledge

We’ve plenty of insight and experience to share. Take advantage of it here, and get inspiration for your next move.

How to answer abstract interview questions

Posted: 21 November 2012

The most abstract interview questions I have come across from candidates, come from those interviewing within the Graduate Quantitative Finance sector. These “thinking questions” are designed to challenge and test the analytical mind. Logic, mathematical and rational reasoning skills are tested using questions that are designed to “throw” candidates using unusual themes.

Some of the most unique questions I have come across from candidates include:

  • “How many pound coins can you fit into this room?”
  • “How many petrol stations are there on the M25?”
  • “At the entrance, a tube station has two escalators moving down and one moving up – why?”
  • “How would you move Mount Fuji?”
  • “Give me three reasons why man-hole cover is round.”
  • “How would you value an option on David Beckham?”
  • “How do you cook an elephant?”

Tips for Answering Abstract Logic Questions:

Take your time… but not too long!:  It is not always about getting to the right answer but more so how you use your thought process to get to your decided end solution. Think the question and possible answer through and then discuss your solution by giving a step-by-step analysis of how and why you get there.

Don’t take too long however; it is more than likely you are being interviewed for a fast-paced role that needs fast-paced reactions!

Ask (sensible) questions:  It isn’t usually prohibited to ask questions or gain clarity. Be sure to probe should you need to understand the question in more detail.

Plan your answers: Ask for a pen and paper and jot down notes if you require.

If you don’t know the answer:

Be honest and give a rational explanation as to why you can’t get to an end solution. You may realise whilst answering the questions that you are going down the wrong route and have a better answer – simply stop and start again.

If you are unable to answer the question during the interview but remember once you get home, follow up with an email apologising and explaining your answer.

Do your research:  Look up sample questions online and practice different solutions. A useful book to read is “Heard on The Street: Quantitative Questions from Wall Street Job Interviews” by Timothy Falcon Crack.

Are you looking for your next job? Check out our roles here